Iron-Age Hillfort & Roman Fort

Ham Hill, Somerset

NGRef: ST4816
OSMap: LR193
Type: Roman Fort
Roads
Fosse Way: NE (5) to LINDINIS (Ilchester, Somerset)
Fosse Way: WSW (23) to MVRIDVNVM (Hembury, nr. Honiton, Devon)

The entire summit of Ham Hill is enclosed by the defences of a 200-acre (c.81 ha) Iron-Age hillfort, among the largest in Britain, which was probably re-used by the Roman army to site a permanent fortification within the territories of the Durotriges tribe. The site has yielded a number of finely-crafted pieces of Roman military equipment mostly identified as legionary in origin, also pieces of a scale-mail cuirass with possible auxiliary connotations. The quantity of and quaility of the finds coupled with the sites dominance over a large part of the surrounding countryside makes it very likely that a Roman fort once existed here, with parallels perhaps at Hod Hill in Dorset and Brandon Camp in Worcestershire. There are no inscriptions on stone recorded in the R.I.B. for the Ham Hill fort, although a Roman milestone or honorific pillar has been uncovered beside the Fosse Way just to the west (vide infra).

Even though there are no physical remains in the form of typical V-shaped defensive ditches or rectangular groups of post-holes or foundation trenches of an identifiable Roman building to prove the presence of a fort, their absence is easily explained when you consider that any fort here would have been occupied for only a short space of time during the initial Claudian campaigns before the scene of action was removed to Wales and Northern Britain, and once the decision to abandon the fort had been made, its defences were probably levelled by the Romans prior to departure to prevent its possible re-use by any local dissident forces left to their rear.

Milestone from Venn Bridge on the Fosse Way in Somerset

IMP FL VAL SEVERO PI FEL NOB CAES
"Imperator Flavius Valerius Severus Pius Felix,¹ noble Caesar."
(RIB 2229; milestone; dated: AD305/306)
  1. The ill-fated emperor Severus II: Following the abdication of the joint emperors Diocletian and Maximian on 1st May AD305, the Caesars Galerius and Constantius I were each promoted to the rank of Augustus, and to replace them Maximinus Daia and Severus were appointed joint Caesars. Severus became 'Augustus in the West' in August 306 following the death of emperor Constantius at York on 25th July. Joint rule alongside Galerius was not to last long, however, for upon the death of Constantius the troops in Britain had proclaimed his son Constantine Emperor in the West and popular support for Constantine forced Severus into abdication during March or April 307. Severus was finally forced to suicide near Rome on 16th September 307.

Click Here for Information about the Iron-Age Hillfort at Ham Hill

See: The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
Roman Britain by Peter Salway (Oxford 1981) p.93;
The Roman Invasion of Britain by Graham Webster (Batsford, London, 1993);
The Latin-English translation, including any inherent mistakes, is my own.

GoTop

This page was last modified: